Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Kelly's TBP 1(and only!).14: Lost Detroit

Dear Jenny,

I have not forgotten my TBP list. And I am going to re-visit it for 2015! Even though... I only actually perused one book in 2014. Oh, well. I did the one -- stay tuned for my publishing of the 2015 list soon, but I'll review the one right now.

It was Lost Detroit, written by Dan Austin with photographs by Sean Doerr.

This book was a perfect balance of photographs and writing. Sometimes photo-centric books don't have enough copy, but this one definitely did -- great history on the buildings included.

I had a big fear when I started that it would just be glorified ruin porn (oddly called "ruins photography" on wikipedia because... absolutely no one calls it that?) buuuut... there was actually a lot of great stuff in here about not only the history of these buildings, but also the current and possible future states. The subtitle is "Stories behind the Motor City's majestic ruins" and the author did a good job of telling those stories.

Since it was published in 2010, I ended up looking up nearly every building pictured to find out what was going on with it now.  While I was looking up information on the buildings online, I realized, "Hey... some of the copy on this Historic Detroit website is actually verbatim taken from this book!" Well, that's cause Dan Austin, the author, started the Historic Detroit website. So I've also been able to check out tons of additional photos on that site, as well as updates to some of the stories in the book.

Bill also happens to be a pretty good resource for information on some of these buildings -- even though we are both "from" here, I left when I was 9 and he was here until he was 30, so he really has a way better handle on what's going on around here. As I was reading, he happened to walk by and see this photo:

And said "Oh, is that the theatre that they use as a parking garage now?" To which I said, "Wait... what? What do you mean the theatre they use as a parking garage?!" So I looked it up. The one he is talking about is the Michigan Theatre aaaaand... here it was, just a few pages later:

That's a car. Parked inside of an old movie palace. What the heck!?

Sooo... the first one is the Eastown Theatre (typical bad-news trajectory: originally a gradiose movie theatre, then concert venue, then drug den, now a husk of a ruined building that is slowly becoming a pile of rubble in a run-down neighborhood. See it for yourself on Google Maps street-view.)

And the one that Bill mentioned is the Michigan Theatre. As shown above, it is, in fact, an eerily beautiful parking garage. It was slated to be torn down in the 1970s, but they found it would cause structural damage to the adjoining building. That building needed secure parking for its tenants, so... new life for the theatre! And here's an interesting tidbit:
In a twist that is as sad as it is ironic, the theater was built on the site of the small garage where Henry Ford built his first automobile, the quadricycle. (The garage was disassembled by Henry Ford and moved to his museum in Dearborn, Mich.) The site of the automobile’s birthplace replaced by a movie theater, reclaimed by the automobile. [134]
Although some... many... okay, most... of the buildings featured in the book have either remained in the same terrible state or been demolished since publication, there is definitely a tide of change for the good happening for some of these.

And here's one! At 34 stories, The Broderick Building was once the third tallest abandoned structure in the country -- and this is a very spooky photo of it...  all those dark windows when everything else is lit up. Kah-reepy.

BUT! It was renovated in 2012 and now has 100% occupancy (looks like there's one coming available soon -- $3850/month for a 609sf one bedroom. Whoa.) So hey -- that's actually super great news!

Aaaand... I just spent way too much time making this little "then and now" photo compilation (this is why I do not write more of these TBP posts -- I spend too much time fiddling with the images!)

The top photo is from the book [pg 21]. Second photo is from the "Invest Detroit" website. I scoured the Internet for a photo that actually shows an interior that is the same as that first photo, but could not -- however, these are both from the penthouse floors.

Amazing, right? (Makes me wish that someone would write a book comparing former "ruined" buildings with their current/revived state...)

Here's another "Good News" story. The GAR Building was completely boarded up when this photo was taken:

But renovations have been underway since that time and the folks doing it are keeping a really great blog documenting their work -- it's super interesting to watch the in-progress reports and see the photos. (Aaaand... timely news! There's a restaurant opening in that building this week. Those beef tallow fries look amazing.)

Of course, there's more, more, more to see in this book, but I'm cutting myself off so I can get this thing published. If you're interested, check out that Historic Detroit website. Really great stuff there.

In related news, this article came out last week about the future of Detroit. I thought this pull quote really nailed it: "“Detroit was born in two generations, died in three, and it’s going to take a generation or two to come back.” — Tony Fadell (Nest CEO)



1 comment:

  1. Maybe YOU SHOULD WRITE THE BOOK comparing ruined buildings to their former state.

    I will say, what you lack in quantity, you definitely make up for in quality. The posts from the TBP piles are always some of my favorites. Of course, this one is also more than a little heartbreaking and sad.

    In my neck of the woods, a local artist named Theaster Gates is saving an old and beautiful bank and converting it to a gallery. I'm excited to see it open. This is when I wish I had $$ and could actually support projects like this with dollars.